SPN 307 Intensive Advanced Composition and Conversation
SPN 489 Development of Spanish Culture
SPN 489 Advanced Intensive Composition/Grammar
SPN 489 History of Spain: Franco to Pre-Democracy
SPN 489 Speaking & Writing Skills
SPN 489 Spanish Art-Contemporary
SPN 489 Political System of the EU
SPN 450 Advanced Latin American Culture & Civilization
My mission is to be a culturally competent change-agent, dedicated to sustaining social-ecological systems in a just and prosperous way.
Studying abroad exposed me to the nuanced nature of culture on Earth. Not just culture abroad, but culture everywhere, from countries, regions and cities to ecosystems, communities, families and bodies.
Being culturally competent means so much more than knowing other cultures exist; it means recognizing culture around you in every moment and seeing that by simply existing, you are participating in culture, either promoting or obstructing it. Moreover, it means engaging with others as unique individuals with culturally dynamic identities and communication styles, no matter how “other” they are.
Abroad, I experienced what it feels like to be the “other,” where misunderstandings occurred left and right, threatening my out-of-place identity. During study abroad, I didn’t know to call myself “othered,” I only came to understand othering later on, because of things like Communication Across Barriers class and the Sojourner Scholars Program.
Through complicating individual identity, studying abroad also exposes the nuanced nature of culture inside one’s mind. That is, it exposes discrepancies in self-impression and self-expression, or else, how one perceives themselves to be and how one actually appears to be in eyes of others.
While studying abroad, I really had to confront myself and culture. I had to push through a lot of negative self-talk about my identity, heritage, privilege, language, competence, etc. in order to align my self-expression (behavior) with my self-impression (thoughts + emotions) and embody who I want to be. To me, pushing through all that led to me seeing myself in others and others in me, which I believe is the genesis of cultural competence.
With that said, studying abroad only gave me a glimpse of what it feels like to be the "other", and all along, I was part of a promoted culture as opposed to an obstructed one. I mean, I’m from a hegemonic Western culture. For those who are part of systemically obstructed cultures, maintaining positive self-impressions as well as self-expression is exponentially more difficult.
To me, being a culturally competent change agents begins with changing myself... my own self-impression and self-expression, so that I am not impeding other's freedom to be who they are. Restoring social-ecological systems starts with our own minds and bodies, thoughts and actions, building identity around networks of new knowledge so that change becomes systemic.
The challenges facing human and non-human communities today are deeply connected to the way in which humans relate to themselves, one another and the Earth. Social-ecological problems transcend borders and in order for us to address them, we must transcend borders, too.
We must overcome communication barriers that stem from colonized mindsets regarding race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and age in order to resolve imbalances in power. We must overcome the simplification of culture and foster all forms of diversity, for homogeneity is destructive to both ecology and society.
My ideas around homogeneity have been informed by classes such as the Science of Sustainable Gourmet, in which I learned about monoculture farming and the subsequent overuse of pesticides causing erosion and ecosystem collapse. And, classes like Development of Spanish Culture and Latin American Culture and Civilization, wherein I learned about the Spanish inquisition and ethnic cleansing throughout the Iberian Peninsula and the colonization of indigenous people throughout the Americas. Both of these historical acts eradicated people, knowledge, language, etc. and seeded “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy” (Bell Hooks in Understanding Patriarchy).
With respect to ecology, biodiversity on Earth, in soil, in seas, in skies etc. is crucial to the sustainability of natural systems. With respect to society, diversity amongst people is equally as important to the sustainability of social systems. The expressive, creative and recombinant qualities of diverse cultures are needed to bring about a just, prosperous, and sustainable future wherein humans and nature relate in mutually beneficial ways.
To solve the social-ecological challenges of our time, we must communicate with one another and nurture cultural diversity. We must recognize intrinsic worth in all beings on Earth. We must end the oppression of people and the planet, for they are the same.
To me, the challenges that we face today are opportunities to transform unsustainable paradigms that stem from colonization and the subsequent promotion of certain identities over others. Alternatively, when we subscribe to a decolonized paradigm, we see others as they truly are: complex beings with dynamic identities.
From a decolonized perspective, we are free to listen to one another and honor each other’s knowledge, stories and standpoints. Additionally, we are free to accept ourselves and forgive our roots, no matter where we came from, aligning our self-impression and self-expression. We are free to ally with one another, as opposed to fighting.
Breaking free from oppression, creates space for raising up and including “others” in participatory styles of decision-making, ensuring that those who have been silenced are represented and heard. Through seeing ourselves in others and others in us, we can rise to the challenge of liberating people and planet from colonial perspectives. Then, we can move forward with sustaining social-ecological systems in a just and prosperous way.
Reci-Creativa: Building identity around networks of new knowledge.
My portfolio is about recycling and building on what you already know in order to create meaning. Recycling is not limited to plastic bottles, soda cans and glass jars, it can be applied to culture, clothes, food, language, and even history. In my portfolio, "reci" refers to using something over and over and over again in different forms, much like conjugating a verb in order to address you, or I, or we. In this sense, recycling is representative of cultural competence and learning insomuch as someone can take what they’ve acquired and either build on it and keep it, or alter it, and send it back out into the world for someone else to use later.
Culture is the product of recycling everything from words and music to weeds and wood chips, socially and ecologically speaking. The diversity of culture in society is akin to that of soil and is critical for the organic emergence of healthy people and plants. In turn, the health of our planet with respect to sustainability is dependent on the health of our cultures. To sustain culture everywhere, individuals must recycle or else, take bits and pieces of the world and reuse them appropriately in novel ways. Students who are abroad, for example, must learn in class, be it grammar or vocabulary, and apply what they learn by using it outside of class, thus recycling lessons to build knowledge and actively generate culture.
This portfolio is a collection of building blocks I acquired abroad and the ways in which I combined them to construct my own identity in a foreign culture, as well as participate in the culture and sustain it appropriately.
In the first few weeks of being abroad in Spain, I was in the process of applying for the Udall scholarship and would meet with Dr. Orr, a fellowship advisor, on a regular basis. I reached a point of near psychosis, because I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life at the same time I was going through culture shock and realizing that everything I knew about the world was merely a fraction of the bigger picture. In order to pin down my fleeting thoughts and crumbling worldview, I journaled often. One thing that I drew in my journal to keep myself organized was this mind map.
El Diario de Vocabulario
One of my favorite books is called Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon and in it, the author talks about keeping a “steal stash” of elements of other people’s ideas that stand out to you. So, I kept a steal stash in Spain, where I logged new vocabulary words, slang, and common phrases, then practiced them until I felt comfortable using them in conversation as my own. Reading it now, it’s interesting to see how my vocabulary evolved. At first, it was rudimentary and came from books and class discussions. Early on, I started reading Punto y Coma magazines to supplement my learning and from them I gathered lots of technical and subject specific words. As soon as I started going to intercambios, my language skills advanced rapidly and I started coming across more conversational phrases as well as culture specific slang. Intercambios ended up being a safe place for me to make mistakes in my language learning process, which was hugely important for boosting my overall confidence in speaking and interacting with locals.
Collage: Una Vision
Throughout my time abroad in Granada, Spain, I collected magazines, flyers, advertisements, ticket stubs and photographs to make a collage out of them as soon as I returned home. Every time I found something that symbolized my time abroad I would collect it and tuck it safely in my journal for later.
My first collage “Caprichos” is made of what I saved and symbolizes elements of Spanish culture, my day to day life in Spain and my one-time adventures. Some things I saved include the Centro de Luenguas Modernas, where we took classes each week, the Cueva de Nerja, Mesquita-Catedral de Cordóba, el Museo Nacional de Prado and la Reina Sofia, which are all destinations of organized class field trips. In particular, the Mezquita-Catedral ticket stub is important to me, because it symbolizes the modern collage of religions and mixture of historic civilizations present in Spain today. Additionally, the collage has clippings of Lemon Rock Bar and Hostel, La Goma, Eco-Mercado, and Noat, Potemkin, which are all places that I frequented weekly for language exchanges and outings with local friends. The collage also includes poems that encapsulate the dominant mentality of curiosity, adventure, and enjoyment that I tried to maintain while abroad.
My second collage “Stories” is a subset of my first and it is made out of a piece of fake newspaper that I got from a bar and a poem that elaborate on the principal mindset that I found myself coming back to while abroad no matter how difficult the experience was. The poem speaks to the breadth and depth of my experience aboard and illustrates my life-lesson like takeaway.
Este centro social se define como asambleario, autogestionario, horizontal, participativo, activo, vegano y en defensa de la tierra, feminista y pro-okupación.
Pretendemos que este espacio sea un punto de encuentro, un medio para la acción directa político-social, la generación de alternativas, la transformación social, la autogestión y la autonomía, el desarrollo colectivo, el aprendizaje y la crítica. Un espacio donde desarrollarnos tanto personal como colectivamente, donde construir también un espacio de ocio y cultura alternativo para el barrio y para cualquiera con ganas de participar, donde se generen otras formas de relacionarnos.
Os recordamos que se trata de un espacio político donde apostamos por el respeto a lxs demás y buscamos sentirnos cómodxs y segurxs.No se pasarán por alto actitudes y agresiones de tipo machistas, racistas, xenófobas, tránsfobas, lesbófobas, homófobas, capacitistas o insolidarias…de hecho se responderá ante ellas.
On a weekly basis, I would escape my studies and plans with friends to go to La Redonda, a community center in Granada, Spain, where I would practice aerial silks with the local community of vagabonds, if you will.
I first learned about La Redonda from a female artist who I initially met in a free aerial silks class at a local pole dancing studio, and then I later bought art from, when she was selling her work on the street leading up to the Albaicin neighborhood. She recommended that I look up La Redonda on Facebook to learn more about their community services. So, I visited their page to see if they had any upcoming events and found that they offered weekly workshops on bike repair, theater, gardening, and circus arts. Having done aerial silks for the past twelve years and used up my one free class at the dance studio, I thought I would go check it out. The first time I went, I decided to walk from my house even though it was a couple miles away, because I wasn't comfortable riding the bus yet. In the process of getting there, I was very nervous that I turned around twice. When I arrived, I was uncertain that I had found the right place because the entry way was a large spray painted and bashed up metal door that looked to enclose an abandoned lot. I stood standing indecisively outside the door until someone emerged from inside and quickly headed down the street, leaving the door ajar in front of me. At that point, I stuck my head inside and relaxed at the site of eclectic looking circus folk juggling, swinging upside down on trapeze and taking turns on various aerial apparatuses. I tried not to think about my limited language skills or fear that conversation would go where I couldn't follow and approached a group of women to introduce myself. We became quickly acquainted and started teaching one another different aerial techniques. I jotted down new words in my vocabulary journal for climbing, wrapping, inverting, hanging, gripping, and relaxing as well as words of affirmation for getting off the ground.
I felt like I had "gotten off the ground", not because I was up in the air, but because I had ventured outside of my comfort zone to engage with the local community. Honestly, stepping through the front door was scarier than dropping from the sky as far as aerial fright goes.
La Movida Madrilleña
This photo was taken in Madrid outside of El Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. It is me wearing a jacket that I thrifted earlier in the day. The jacket it is important because I purchased it from a second hand shop and it reminds me of La Movida Madrilleña, which is a social movement that occurred rapidly after Franco’s death. It was essentially the 60’s all over again in Spain. Not only was the psychedelic, punk rock, movement in the U.S. “recycled” and reimagined in Europe, it took hold of Spanish culture unlike any other because people were desperate to express themselves following Franco's dictatorship.
Perhaps the jacket came from that period, making it an emblem of Spanish culture. Regardless of where it came from, it was recycled and ended up in my possession. To this day, wearing it makes me feel like a modern Madrilleña.
The Sojourner Scholar Program is a certification program that allows students various pathways within their degree programs to demonstrate the highest level of the University’s Global and Intercultural Learning Outcomes (Global and Intercultural Learning Outcomes). A Sojourner Scholar is prepared to work in the world on global issues with care and understanding for the complexity of human interactions and how they are expressed in cultures around the world. A Sojourner Scholar can use a second language confidently as a means of bridging cultures and developing empathy and shared understanding in a variety of contexts.
Level III: Sojourner
- Knowledge: I can articulate complex insights into components of my culture than inform/influence my worldview, values, beliefs
- Knowledge: I can interpret intercultural experiences from more than one worldview and can recognize and support the feelings of another cultural group
- Skills: I can demonstrate sophisticated understanding of the complexity of elements important to members of another culture in relation to its history, values, politics, communication styles, economy, or beliefs and practices
- Attitudes: I can initiate interactions with people from other cultures abroad and successfully negotiate shared understanding based on our differences
- Second-Language Proficiency: I can sustain everyday and content-specific, e.g. academic or professional interactions with people from a different culture and second language
While I was studying abroad in Granada, Spain, I took an extracurricular class on permaculture called La Huerta Urbana. The class was offered through the University of Granada and made up of local "granadinos" and international students from around the world. Every week, the class met outside of downtown granada at the professors farm for a three hour workshop, during which the professor, who was a retired architect, would teach us about the local watershed, native species, regional weather patterns, farming policies, and farming practices. We began each meeting gathered in a circle under a big tree, where we'd pull out our workbooks and read about the above mentioned topics. We proceeded to disperse into groups and work on projects on farm such as pulling weeds, harvesting, planting, turing the compost, irrigating the garden beds, and building trellises.
The course was geared towards teaching students permaculture design principles, which are used for the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient. Permaculture itself is centered around whole systems thinking and three primary principles: care for the earth, care for the people, share in the abundance. These principles are built on the premise that in order for agricultural ecosystems to be sustainable they must be implanted in healthy culture, both natural and social, in such a way that makes them uniquely permanent-cultures.
This poem is ultimately about “fermentation,” a culturing process. When I was abroad in Spain, I went through culture shock and somehow, creating a metaphor out of my experience helped me cope. Metaphorically speaking, studying abroad and ultimately becoming more cultured feels like you are being pickled, fermenting or else transforming into something more rich and refined through a culturing process.
In my POE class, I had to write a short story about Spain that included as many of the six senses as possible, so I wrote about walking through the streets of Granada. I kept the homework assignment, because it reminds me of the little things about Granada that I might have otherwise forgotten like the trees blooming in the plazas that were home to so many birds, the gypsies loitering outside of monuments offering passersby rosemary as a segue into pick pocketing them, and the very common Spanish custom of getting un café y una tostada with friends at the drop of a hat.